Preferential Voting – Single Member (AV)

Analysis of Preference Flows at the Upper Hunter By-election

The NSW Upper Hunter by-election on 22 May was notable for the unusually low first preference vote for the two major parties. The Nationals polled 31.2%, Labor 21.2%, with the combined vote for the other 11 candidates an unusually high 47.6%.

The by-election was conducted under NSW’s optional preferential voting rules and 63.4% of other candidate ballot papers exhausted their preferences before reaching one of the final two candidates. At the end of the count, exhausted ballot papers represented 30.2% of the first preference vote.

With ballot paper data from the by-election now published, it is possible to examine more closely the two-party preferred flows of preferences from excluded candidates, to determine how many preferences voters completed, and to measure the influence of how-to-vote recommendations on preference flows.Read More »Analysis of Preference Flows at the Upper Hunter By-election

Electoral Law, Savings Provisions and Senate Reform

Someone reading my article on reforming the WA Legislative Council’s electoral system reminded me of a speech I did a number of years ago on Senate electoral reform and issues to do with savings provisions.

The speech was at the launch of a UNSW Law Journal special Issue number 39(1) with various papers on electoral law.

The Journal had several papers on different areas of electoral law. I addressed each of the papers before spending much of the speech on savings provisions and in particular looking at the issue of savings provisions with the reformed Senate electoral system.

The speech was shortly before the 2016 election, after the Senate electoral reforms had passed, but before they were ruled constitutional by the High Court.

Having watched the speech back, I thought it worth sharing and it can be viewed via the YouTube link in the post.Read More »Electoral Law, Savings Provisions and Senate Reform

WA’s Zonal Electoral System and the Legislative Council Reform Debate

This post is a detailed look at Western Australia’s zonal electoral system ahead of a major review of how the Legislative Council is elected.

The malapportionment that applied to lower house boundaries was abolished with the introduction of one-vote one-value electoral boundaries at the 2008 election.

But malapportionment remains for the Legislative Council, and was in fact made worse by changes to region representation in 2008.

The bias in the electoral system against Perth has drifted out from 2.80-to-1 when the current system was adopted in 1989, to 3.07-to-1 in 2021.

But this hides another developing bias, an increased weighting against voters in South West Region. Where in 1989 average enrolment per MLC in the three non-metropolitan regions was equal, by the 2021 election, average enrolment in Agricultural Region and Mining and Pastoral Region had blown out to a ratio of 2.81-to-1 against voters in South West Region.

Western Australia’s current electoral regions defined by land usage rather than population is unsustainable given demographic trends.

The McGowan government has appointed a Ministerial Expert Committee chaired by QC and former WA Governor Malcolm McCusker to examine reform options for the Legislative Council. The existing malapportionment of the Legislative Council’s electoral system is one amongst several issues it will be addressing. (You can find details of the Committee here)

In this post I set out in detail the problems with the current malapportionment. In future posts I’ll return to other issues such as whether Western Australia should follow the Commonwealth, New South Wales and South Australia by abolishing group voting tickets for elections to the upper house.
Read More »WA’s Zonal Electoral System and the Legislative Council Reform Debate

WA’s Experiment with Lower House Ticket Voting

Divided Senate ballot papers and Group Voting Tickets were first introduced for Senate elections in 1984. They were later adapted for use in the four mainland states with Legislative Councils, South Australia in 1985, NSW in 1988, Western Australia in 1989 and Victoria finally in 2006.

Divided ballot papers remain in use for electing upper houses in all jurisdictions. However, group voting tickets (GVTs), allowing parties to control between-party preferences, have fallen out of favour. GVTs were abolished in NSW in 2003, for the Senate in 2016 and in South Australia in 2018. GVTs are still part of the upper house voting system in Victoria and Western Australia.

All states except Western Australia adopted the Senate’s horizontal ballot paper where groups are listed left to right, with voters given the option of voting ‘above the line’ for party groups, or ‘below the line’ for lists of candidates. Western Australia finally adopted this ballot paper in 2017.

The original WA upper house ballot paper listed parties and groups vertically. Voters were given the choice of voting for groups on the left of the ballot paper, or for candidates on the right.

The reason Western Australia adopted a different ballot paper was because the design was intended to be used for both upper and lower house elections. The divided lower house ballot paper was used for three by-elections in 1988 but then abandoned before the 1989 state election.

A sample of the divided ballot paper used for the 1988 Ascot by-election is shown below.Read More »WA’s Experiment with Lower House Ticket Voting

Western Australian Legislative Council Calculators Launched

Today I have launched my Legislative Council calculators for the Western Australian election.

You can find the calculators for each region at this link, an explanation of how they work on this page, and links to the group voting tickets for each region over here.

At the 2017 election, more than 95% of votes in all six regions were cast as single ‘1’ above the line tickets, meaning those votes were counted according to each party’s lodged group voting tickets.

The asymmetry of effort between casting a single ‘1’ for a party above the line, or laboriously numbering more than 50 preferences below the line, herds voters into accepting the preference deals and voting above the line for a single party. That sends their vote off on a preferential magical mystery tour across the ballot paper.

As usual there are complex micro-party preference harvesting deals, though not as locked together as at some previous elections. Each of the micro-parties has been allocated a region in which they will be favoured. These are – Read More »Western Australian Legislative Council Calculators Launched

Candidates, Informal Voting and Optional Preferential Voting

In the final week of parliamentary sittings, Queensland LNP Senator James McGrath tabled the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM’s) inquiry into the conduct of the 2019 Federal election. (You can find the report here.)

One of the controversial proposals in the report, and one opposed by Labor and Green members of JSCEM, was a recommendation to move from full or compulsory preferential voting (CPV) to optional preferential voting (OPV) for House of Representatives elections.

The report provides few arguments in favour of OPV. The recommendation for OPV appears suddenly at the end of a brief discussion on informal voting, in particular noting the impact OPV’s use at NSW elections has on informal voting at Federal elections. Senate McGrath presented a different argument for OPV when tabling the JSCEM report in the Senate, referring to OPV as a measure “to maximise voter choice”.

I’ve written on OPV many time previously, and I would suggest reading this post I wrote in 2013 after a previous suggestion from the Coalition about introducing OPV.

Informal voting will always be higher under compulsory preferential voting because ballot papers with faulty numbering have few options for salvation available. This compares with OPV where ballot papers with incomplete, duplicate or missing numbers, or completed with a single tick or cross, can count for candidates to the extent that a voter’s intent is clear.Read More »Candidates, Informal Voting and Optional Preferential Voting

Minor Party Preference Flows at the 2020 Queensland Election

(Note: This post was originally published on 1 November but has been fully updated on 18 November to include data available from later data files. I have also published further comments on preferences, in my final analysis of the 2020 Queensland election results.)

The Electoral Commission Queensland collected preference flow data by candidate as part of its election night count, and continued with the tallying in some electorates in the days that followed..

Preference flow data tallies votes by pairings of ‘from’ and ‘to’ candidates. So in the table below of two-party preferred preference flows, the tally is of votes from third parties that flowed as preferences to Labor or Liberal candidates.Read More »Minor Party Preference Flows at the 2020 Queensland Election

Eden-Monaro By-election – Preferences and Commentary on the Result

The final data dump of results from the Eden-Monaro by-election has been published, including the distribution of preferences and data on preference flows by party. You can find all the data at the AEC website.

In this post I want to look at final flows of preferences, were there differences caused by when people voted, how did the count unfold on election night, and was it a good result for Labor?
Read More »Eden-Monaro By-election – Preferences and Commentary on the Result

Preference Flows at the 2018 South Australian Election and the Influence of How-to-Votes

The 2018 South Australian election saw a record vote for minor parties. This was largely due to the campaign by Nick Xenophon and his SA-Best party, polling 14.2% in the House of Assembly, a creditable 18.4% in the 26 seats it contested. The failure of the party to poll as strongly as published polling well out from the election suggested, or to elect a member to the Assembly, saw its campaign labelled a failure by political commentators.

In the end the party was used by voters as a conduit for preferences to the Liberal and Labor Parties. As you would expect for a party viewed by voters as sitting in the political centre, the party’s preferences split evenly, 51.6% to the Liberal Party and 48.4% to labor.

The release of preference flow data by the SA Electoral Commission provides an opportunity to analyse preference flows against party preference recommendations. Several unique features in the conduct of SA House of Assembly elections allows the comparison of preference flows with how-to-votes lodged by candidates and displayed in voting compartments.Read More »Preference Flows at the 2018 South Australian Election and the Influence of How-to-Votes

South Australian Government Proposes Optional Preferential Voting

In proposing that South Australia adopt optional preferential voting for House of Assembly elections, the Marshall government is highlighting democratic principles in favour of making preferences optional. But you don’t have to be cynical to see that in backing principle, the SA Liberal Party is also backing its own self-interest.

Since 1982 there have been 26 South Australian electoral contests where a candidate trailing on first preferences won. Of these, 14 were won by Labor, 11 by Independents or minor party candidates, and just one by the Liberal Party. (Newland in 1989).Read More »South Australian Government Proposes Optional Preferential Voting